While travel promotes the benefits of becoming itinerant through exploration, discovery, relaxation and adventure, it’s really all about the traveler’s peace of mind.
Some refer to this as a “sense of place,” the feeling of fitting in and de-stressing from the normal routine. It’s why some travelers feel at ease on a trip to a new destination, while others may take anywhere from a few days to embrace a level of comfort, or indeed, never get there at all.
Travel advisors can assist by helping to foster a sense of place in the mind of the client, easing him or her into a world of wellbeing, security and contentment. Here’s how:
1. Uncork the bottle.
Question, Survey, Discuss or Text your past and present clients about what drives them to travel and put their answers in your database. A question such as, “Why is travel meaningful to your life?” will receive a more in-depth response than the simple, “Why do you want to travel?”
If a client reveals that she loves sushi, sashimi, sake, gardens and castles, a trip to Japan will undoubtedly respond to her sense of place. A client who looks toward sun and scuba will find his place at a beach destination, but to further qualify where that beach should be located, ask about food tastes, music preferences, sense of adventure, trip structure (organized or loose), cultural curiosity, budget, accommodation priorities and vacation lifestyle (nocturnal, diurnal or total holiday insomniac).
2. Create the conversation.
In the context of travel, the sense of place can be many things to many people. Some refer to it as “place attachment,” which goes hand in hand with emotional attachment. Some use the term “rootedness” to define the feeling of being part of the local community. Travelers may relate on a one-to-one conversation-and-interaction level: A drink in a pub that results in a friendly chat with the stranger in the seat next to you; a bargaining session with a merchant that ends up in laughs, handshakes and paying a fair price for the goods; a talk to let the chef know how much you enjoyed the food; the promise to send a photo by email when you return home. These are some of the actions that go beyond just traveling and observing; this is doing and getting involved. It’s leaving a bit of YOU at the destination while taking some of the destination home.
3. Master the exit interview.
In the spirit of a job exit interview, a post-trip chat with your clients will provide details of what they did or didn’t like and also create an opportunity to listen and record their stories.
“Jack forgot his tuxedo shirt and was upset until we found his size in the cruise ship shop. He proudly wore it to dinner at the Captain’s table that evening.”
“We had the vanilla milkshake made with Texas Blue Bell ice cream at Burger Burger in Fredericksburg and it was to die for!”
“Everyone told us that spending time in Huanchaco, Peru, was a waste of time but we had an absolutely enjoyable afternoon chatting with the fishermen, riding in a reed boat, sampling ceviche and just enjoying the ambiance.”
These anecdotes are golden when it comes to interacting with an interested client and then personalizing a destination or cruise ship experience, and even more so when they are accompanied by a photo or video, donated by a client. (You don’t need slick professional visuals to capture the spirit of a travel adventure; you can use real visuals taken by real travelers). Responses from your client (“wow! thank goodness! sounds delicious! I’d love to do that!”) help to gauge their comfort level, and help you better understand how to accommodate their sense of place.
4. Embrace the multi-home syndrome.
A sense of place is an ever-changing travel dynamic; what is comfortable for a traveler this year may change 180 degrees next year. Last year it was lying on the beach in Antigua and blissfully doing nothing. This year it’s a luxury tented Safari in Namibia, or a river cruise on the Irrawaddy River and a climb up Mt. Popa in Myanmar. Chronic travelers (also known proudly as travel addicts) seek to shrink the globe by seeing and understanding as much of it as possible. They want to make the entire planet fit into their comfort zone and so many countries fall neatly into their sense of place: El Salvador, Nepal, South Africa, Croatia, Japan and India represent fairly different cultures and experiences, but all are excellent candidates for that feeling of home. Next year’s sense of place does not replace this year’s, but adds to the traveler’s repertoire of experiences and expands their stories, anecdotes, photos and sense of personal fulfillment.
The sense of place is a strong travel driver. Clients who get into the spirit of it will want to travel more often and further, in order to add to their experience. Qualifying your clients and getting to know their travel motivation becomes an essential part of the process of helping them achieve a travel sense of place.